Barack Obama will become the first U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, the first target of an atomic bomb 70 years ago, the White House announced on Tuesday.
On May 27, Mr. Obama will fulfil a desire he had expressed in 2009 — to travel to either of the two Japanese cities on which the U.S. dropped atomic bombs in 1945. Many historians believe it was necessary to end the Second World War. Jimmy Carter visited Hiroshima in 1984, after he had left the White House
President Obama will be travelling to Japan for his final G-7 summit.
Only months ahead of the November presidential election, Mr. Obama’s trip to Hiroshima is fraught with serious risks — to his own legacy and the chances of the Democratic nominee. The Republicans have accused Mr. Obama of being on a perpetual global apology tour — referring to his various remarks that sought to recalibrate U.S. positions towards Europe, the Muslim world and the war on terror.
Many conservative commentators and politicians think Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has diminished the superpower status of the U.S. Republican candidate Donald Trump’s ‘Make American Great Again’ slogan is substantially based on this sentiment.
In a preemptive move, the White House said the President would not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb. “He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War-II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future,” said Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.
“The President will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a site at the centre of the city dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing, where he will share his reflections on the significance of the site and the events that occurred there.”
Mr. Rhodes said the country would “be eternally proud of our civilian leaders and the men and women of our armed forces who served in World War II for their sacrifice at a time of maximum peril to our country and our world”.
“Their cause was just, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude, which the President will again commemorate shortly after the visit on Memorial Day. This visit will offer an opportunity to honour the memory of all innocents who were lost during the war.”
The Hiroshima bombing and America’s relations with Japan have cropped up in the ongoing presidential campaign. Bobby Knight, a legendary basketball coach who recently endorsed Mr. Trump, compared him to Harry Truman who ordered the bombing of Hiroshima, in the presence of the candidate. “Harry Truman…became one of the three great Presidents of the United States. And here’s a man who would do the same thing because he’s going to become one of the four great Presidents of the United States,” he said.
Mr. Trump has said he would rather allow Japan and South Korea to develop their own nuclear arsenals than having U.S. deployment in the region to provide them protection.
Mr. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima will highlight America’s commitment “to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” Mr. Rhodes said. “…the visit will also symbolise how far the United States and Japan have come...We are proud of the role our military plays in Japan: defending our allies, ensuring regional peace and stability, and responding to humanitarian catastrophes. Yet our shared work is not yet finished. We will continue to strive together for a more peaceful world without nuclear weapons, while ensuring our shared security.”